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An energy revolution

Dec 06,2017
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Many people are curious about the true nature of the fourth industrial revolution and how it is different from the existing information society. The fourth industrial revolution committee under the president defines it as intelligent revolution based on hyper-connectivity triggered by digital technology. However, it is still interpreted as an extension of the information age rather than a revolution.

Earlier last month, I went to Germany for a story on hydrogen energy utilization, and I read Jeremy Rifkin’s 2011 book “The Third Industrial Revolution.” The concept of the fourth industrial revolution, which had been vague to me, became clearer. The author discussed the new industrial society and the source of energy that became the foundation.

Rifkin defined the first industrial revolution of the 18th century, represented by the steam engine, as the “coal revolution” and the second industrial revolution of the 19th century to early 20th century, and the era of electricity and the internal combustion engine, as the “petroleum revolution.” The third industrial revolution, the dawn of the hyper-connected internet society, is classified as the “renewable and hydrogen energy revolution.” To operate robots, electric cars, high capacity semiconductors and 24-hour data centers, affordable and environmentally friendly energy needed to be available. Otherwise, humanity would end up in a polluted environment before enjoying a comfortable life thanks to technological advancement.

Environmentally friendly energy sources are the basis of the human-oriented fourth industrial revolution. However, the pan-governmental fourth industrial revolution response plan does not address the issue. Hong Jin-bae, policy coordination director of the Ministry of Science and ICT, said that there had been discussions on future energy sources, but the topic was not included as it addresses broader issues.

The discussions on renewable and hydrogen energies satisfy the typical formula for a Korean-style fourth industrial revolution. First of all, the establishment resists. The existing regulations protect the established interests, and bureaucrats want to keep the regulations. New businesses give up on entering the market. By the time the market has to open, foreign businesses will dominate.

The key to solving the future energy challenge is in the hands of the regulatory authorities, dispersed among the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and the Ministry of Environment. Unless the policy authorities and private sector work together like the Germany’s National Organization Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology, Korea could fall behind once again. This is where the government-civilian fourth industrial revolution committee is needed.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 5, Page 34

*The author is an industrial news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

KIM DO-NYUN